Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

A global educator's responsibilities and their limits

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The St. George's House consultation on the SDGs is over.  It was stimulating.

It seems clear to me that young people can be helped to think about global issues at at early age, and then to be helped to build on that thinking (and learning).   This raises issues of progression (and coherence), at least from a teacher’s perspective.   I remember (this is years ago) complaints from HMI that they went into schools and saw children learning about X (this was probably environmental issues) but there was no coherence to it, with 14 year olds learning in one school what 10 year olds were learning in another, and 8 year olds in another, and many students being asked to study the same things twice.  HMI said this left students bewildered.

Commendably, Oxfam (and maybe others) have addressed the progression issue in relation to global citizenship education – See page 16 of the resource you can download here.

But attempts at rational progression and coherence raise issues of instrumentalism and the possibility that learner autonomy might be jeopardised.  After all,  some learners might want to study what they find interesting (off-piste, as it were).  And any student might learn something that a school rather wished they hadn't (say to be very critical of the UK's 0.7% aid spend).  Each of these fit ill with many forms of progression that you might have come across.

In relation to all this, an awkward question presents itself.

If, at the end of a learning programme about the Goals, a student comes up to you and says this:

– That was fantastic.  Such a great programme; so many insights.  I’ve learned so much.  Thanks, in particular, for the really stimulating way that you approached it.  It’s hard to imagine it could have done better.

– Having thought about it a lot I’m convinced that we should take the goals very seriously.

– However, I think that the 0.7% aid budget should be devoted to helping the very many people across the UK who live shockingly deprived lives (as evidenced, for example, by the latest UK social mobility report).  After all, as Kate Osamor, the Labour shadow secretary of state for international development said the other day: "The Sustainable Development Goals begin at home."

As an educator, what do you think?  Do you think you’ve done a good job – here’s someone who’s thinking for themselves after all – not to mention all that praise for you.  Or do you think you’ve failed utterly because they’re not thinking the right sort of thing?

If you're an educator, there is only one possible answer here.

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